Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

While watching a sports event, it’s common to cringe when an athlete goes down, grasping their knee in pain. You’re probably aware that they may have suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a crucial ligament for knee stability.

But did you know that your beloved pet can experience a similar knee ligament tear? Although it’s known by a different name, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), the issue is essentially the same.

So, what exactly is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The cranial cruciate ligament is responsible for connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) and plays a vital role in stabilizing the knee joint. When this ligament ruptures or tears, the shin bone moves forward away from the femur while your pet walks, causing discomfort and instability.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

Several factors contribute to a CCL rupture or tear in pets, including:

1. Ligament degeneration
2. Obesity
3. Poor physical condition
4. Genetics
5. Skeletal shape and configuration
6. Breed

In general, CCL ruptures occur due to the gradual degeneration of the ligament over months or years, rather than as a result of an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

What are the signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

Determining whether your pet requires veterinary care for a CCL tear, especially a partial tear, can be challenging for pet owners. However, it’s important to seek medical attention if your pet displays the following signs:

1. Pain
2. Stiffness
3. Lameness on a hind leg
4. Difficulty standing after sitting
5. Difficulty sitting
6. Difficulty jumping into the car or on furniture
7. Decreased activity level
8. Muscle atrophy in the affected leg
9. Decreased range of motion in the knee

How can a torn cranial cruciate ligament be repaired?

The treatment for a torn CCL depends on factors such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the extent of knee instability. Surgery is typically the best option, as it provides a permanent solution to manage the instability through osteotomy- or suture-based techniques. However, medical management may also be considered.

If you notice that your pet is limping on a hind leg, it’s possible they have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. We encourage you to reach out to our team and schedule an orthopedic exam for your furry companion.